Category Archives: Energy

What The Holzhaufen!?!?

If you don’t know, don’t worry. Until the other day I didn’t know what a holzhaufen was either. As it turns out, in German, holzhaufen means “woodpile.” But the term holzhaufen has been taken a little bit further and has been associated with a certain method of piling wood. From what I have found, a holzhaufen in its modern definition is a cylinder shape stack of split wood with a pyramid on the top (see picture below). I thought this was too cool to not share because it not only seems to offer an alternative to the traditional wood stack but it dries quickly with a built-in visual indicator of when your firewood is ready to burn.

Picture Credit: Farmshow.com

So how the heck do you build one of these things?

The rough guidelines to construct a holzhaufen include:

1. Wood must be cut in lengths between 12 inches and  24 inches.

2. Wood must be split. Split wood not only dries faster, but also interlocks which is a requirement for sturdy holzhaufen construction. (Have some kindling size pieces available for filling in the gaps when needed.)

3. Build your holzhaufen on a level piece of ground. (Dry ground is recommended.)

4. Decide how high your stack will be (anywhere from 4 to 10 feet high) and drive a stake in the ground to the height, centered in the location of your holzhaufen. FYI – Don’t build the stack higher than you can reach to the top!

5. Determine the diameter of your stack (4 feet to 6 feet across) and start stacking your wood aligned with the outer perimeter. This will leave a space in the center around the stake. As the stack grows around the outer perimeter, fill the empty space in with wood stacked vertically to fill in the gaps. (It does not have to be a real tight fit.) The key is to allow air to move up the stack like a chimney to allow the wood to dry quickly and effectively.

6. While stacking the wood keep an eye on how level the stack is. The idea is to maintain a slight inward lean after about the first third of the stack is built. This can be accomplished by setting the thinner end of the split wood on the inside of the stack. To avoid the stack getting out of balance, “cheater boards” (thinner pieces of split wood) can be placed perpendicular to the other boards on the inside or outside of the stack as needed to keep the stack from falling. (This can be seen in the picture below.)

7. Once you get to the top foot or two of your holzhaufen start the pyramid effect toward the center. When you do this, ensure that the wood used is placed bark side up to offer the highest level of protection to the wood stack below from the elements.

8. Now that you have a completed holzhaufen, sit back and wait for your wood to season. Once the stack has settled about 20 to 25 percent it should be good and ready for the fire. A simple way to know when the wood is ready would be to make an indicator mark at about the 25% point on the center pole when you are building your holzhaufen.

Advantages of the holzhaufen:

  • One holzhaufen can contain as much as two and a half cords.
  • Includes a visual indicator of approximately how dry the wood is.
  • A 6 foot diameter and 10 foot high holzhaufen can be constructed in just one hour.
  • Drying time is shortened compared to other stacking methods due to the chimney effect of the holzhaufen.
  • The small footprint of the holzhaufen compared to other wood stacking methods results in less wood rot and bug infestation because of less wood being in contact with the ground.

*Fancy Homesteader Trick – If you would like to offer even more protection to your holzhaufen from the elements, you can place a patio table umbrella down the middle of the stack to keep it dry. A few words of warning with this method…it might be a good idea to find a way to anchor the umbrella if you do this, you may end up with a smaller holzhaufen this way, and it is also unlikely that you will any longer be able to sit outside and enjoy lemonade under your patio table umbrella when there is a huge stack of wood underneath it!

Sources: Farmshow.com, Mother Earth News, The Morning Call

Gear Review: POWERDRIVE 100D Inverter

This product received a 4 star rating from The Prepared Ninja!

First of I would like to say that I did not realize how useful a power inverter would be in the car until I had one.  Now I don’t know how I went so long without having it.  I have used the POWERDRIVE 100D to charge and run my laptop, iPhone, kid’s Nintendo DS’s and our iPad in the car to name a few things.  The inverter works great and has never given me any problems.  I routinely use it for work where I will run my computer off of the AC outlet while my iPhone is hooked up to the USB port at the same time without issue.  Now according to the specifications provided by the manufacturer using my laptop alone exceeds the capacity of the inverter but this thing handles it like a champ! 

The premise of the inverter of course it to convert 12-volt DC power from your vehicle’s battery into 110-volt household AC power.  This inverter is rated to handle household AC powered items that are rated up to 100 watts.  The AC outlet can take two prong or three prong AC cords.  One of the great things that I have enjoyed about this particular product as well is that it has a swivel plug that allows the inverter to be adjusted up and down making rather convenient and accommodating to different vehicles and different typed of AC plugs.

The exact model for this inverter is the POWERDRIVE RPPD100D.  It carries a retail price of $24.99.  Found mine on clearance at Pilot for $3.00 though!  It also has some great features including:

-Operating Indicator: Green LED Indicator on top of your inverter will light to indicate power to your inverter.
 
-Current Overload Protection: If the inverter is overloaded, it will shut down to protect itself. To restore normal operation, disconnect the excessive load and turn the unit off and disconnect the plug.
 
-Low Voltage Protection: If the input voltage drops to 10.5V or less, the inverter will shut down to protect the battery. To restore normal operation, return the DC input voltage to at least 12V. The inverter will automatically return to normal operation.
 
-High Voltage Protection: If the DC input voltage rises above 15 volts, the inverter will shut down to protect itself. To restore normal operation, return the DC input voltage to less than 15 volts. The inverter will automatically return to normal operation. (Although the inverter has protection against over-voltage, it may still be damaged if the input voltage were to exceed 16 volts.)
 
-Over Temperature Protection: If the inverters internal temperature rises to 104ºF, the inverter will shut down to protect itself. (Internal inverter temperature can rise due to being operated in a high heat environment or due to the fan or vents being blocked during operation (even in relatively cool outside air). To restore normal operation, turn the unit off and allow it to cool. The inverter will automatically return to normal operation after it has cooled.)
 
-USB Outlet: The USB outlet will supply 5 volts at 500ma to charge and power cell phones, iPods® and other small electronics.
 
-Operating Limits/Power Output: The inverter can deliver 100 watts for about 60 minutes. The inverter must cool for 15 minutes before it can resume operation at 100 watts. (Operating time will vary depending upon the type, capacity charge level of the battery, and the power draw of the AC products you are using. With a normal vehicle battery and a 100 watt load (such as a small television) you can expect an operating time of 2 to 3 hours. It is recommended that you start your vehicle once an hour when using the RPPD100D for extended periods of time.)
 
PROS – Small, Lightweight, and Portable. Versatile.
 
CONS – Would be nice if there was an inverter model that provided more wattage without needing to be hardwired.  This is not a unique problem to the POWERDRIVE brand though.
 
The POWERDRIVE 100D Inverter can be purchased at Amazon.com, The Andersons, Boss eStore, Love’s Travel Stops, Pilot Travel Centers, and Wilco.